Indonesia is planning to build a new airport on the resort island of Bali next year to cope with a growing influx of tourists, the state-owned airport operator said Thursday.
Around 13 million tourists passed through Denpasar's existing Ngurah Rai International Airport in 2011, drawn by Bali's year-round sunshine and tropical beaches, and numbers are expected to hit 15 million this year.
If current growth in passenger numbers continues, the airport, which opened in 1969, will hit its 20 million passenger capacity around 2014 or 2015, said Miduk Situmorang, spokesman for airport operator Angkasa Pura.
The proposed new airport would have an annual capacity of 40 million passengers and would be of "world-class standard", he said.
"We are anticipating more tourists to come to Bali," Situmorang told AFP. He declined to say how much the new facility was expected to cost.
The new airport would be located in the northern coastal district of Buleleng, in a part of the island now covered in rice paddies and farms, but a long way from the popular southern beach resorts in Seminyak and Kuta.
"Buleleng is known for its diving spots and dolphins. It's largely an undeveloped farming area so we hope an airport will boost tourism there, as southern Bali is becoming too crowded," Situmorang said.
Situmorang said the company hoped to begin drawing up plans for the airport later this year and to begin construction in the second half of 2013, although it still needed approval from the transport ministry and the local government.
The mainly Hindu island in the east of the Muslim-majority archipelago is Indonesia's premier tourist attraction.
However, many have warned that its image of tropical tranquility is under threat due to pollution, traffic jams and over-development.